It was nearly a month after the incident with Jeremiah. Outside, Christmas decorations lined the city streets. The holidays were nearly upon them. Even in the courthouse, the Christmas season was apparent in little touches and flourishes, like the holly decorating a notice board or the Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby he's seen when he'd first arrived with his fathers and Kurt.
When the prosecutor finally walked up, LeRoy and Hiram excused themselves to go speak with her. Though she'd told them they did not have to come, Blaine had wanted to. He'd wanted to see it happen.
Blaine watched them walk away, then turned to Kurt. "Thanks, Kurt, for being here," he said. "It really means a lot."
Kurt shrugged it off. "Of course. I wouldn't have missed this for anything," His eyes dropped to Blaine's cast. "How's your arm?"
Blaine held up the right arm and wiggled his fingers. "It's feeling OK today. Just two more weeks and I can get this stupid cast off."
Kurt smirked. "So, what exactly is going to happen in there?" he asked, indicating the courtroom with his chin.
Blaine shrugged. "I only know what my dad's told me. He's going to plea out, which means he'll be found guilty and go to prison. Then the judge gets to decide how long he'll be in prison for."
That was the best he knew. It had taken months to get to even this point, and he suspected it was only because of the evidence against him – Blaine's evidence specifically – that he'd even agreed to the deal.
A few moments later, LeRoy returned to where the boys stood. "You ready, Blaine?" Blaine nodded, expression grim.
With LeRoy's steadying hand on his shoulder, he headed into the courtroom after Hiram and the prosecutor. With a wave of her hand, the prosecutor indicated where they should sit in the gallery. He slid in after both Hiram and LeRoy and Kurt sat on the very edge of the bench, which reminded him very much of church pews.
He looked over at Kurt, who offered him an encouraging smile. "Courage," he whispered in Blaine's ear, and maybe because it was Kurt saying it, Blaine actually felt it.
There was a knock and the bailiff called for all in attendance to rise. Their little family did so and Blaine watched as the judge, a portly man with a bald patch took the bench. Judge Ruiz said casually, "Be seated," and everyone in the entire courtroom sat. Yep, thought Blaine, exactly like church.
"First up, State versus Darrell Phillips." Blaine turned to look. A door off the side of the courtroom opened and the man who he'd hit on the day of his mother's funeral – the man who'd beat her regularly for nearly a year before finally beating her to death – emerged in prison orange with cuffs around his wrists and ankles. Even in that state, Blaine felt a surge of hatred rising up. His left hand balled into a tight fist. But then, a cool hand covered his own and his fist involuntarily relaxed. He looked at Kurt beside him – the boy who'd somehow, through all the mess and violence and noise had managed to become one of his best friends – and in that boy's expression he saw nothing but concern. No pity, no judgment, and certainly, no disgust.
Blaine smiled at him, turned his left hand around beneath Kurt's hand and laced his fingers in between Kurt's own. He squeezed gently, and tried to put everything he was thinking into it – both the relief and the gratitude that Kurt, of all people, was by his side.
As he turned the attention back up to the front, he listened a man in a light blue suit rattle off a bunch of words very quickly that he didn't entirely understand. Then the judge turned to the prosecutor. "Are those the terms the state agreed to?" he asked.
"Yes, Your Honor," said the prosecutor simply.
Then the judge turned his attention to Darrell and told him to raise his right hand. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
"Do you wish to change your plea from not guilty to no contest?"
"Other than the plea terms already discussed, has anything else been promised to you in order to secure your plea today?"
"Do you understand that by entering this plea you are giving up certain constitutional rights such as the right to a trial by jury, the right to remain silent, the right to face your accused, and the right to question witnesses and present your own witnesses in your defense?"
The questioning continued in that same vein, with Darrell never looking away from the judge as he said his "Yessir's" and "No, sir's" until the judge, in the same monotone voice said, "I hereby find the defendant is entering his plea knowingly and voluntarily. I hereby adjudicate Darrell Philips guilty of voluntary manslaughter. I also accept the sentence proposal submitted by the State. Mr. Phillips shall be remanded to the custody of the Ohio State Prison system for seven years without parole." He banged his gavel once before immediately moving onto the next case.
Blaine watched, his hand tightening its grip on Kurt's, as the man who killed his mother glanced back over his shoulder and caught Blaine's eye. Almost as quickly, Darrell dropped his gaze and shuffled back to the door through the door where sheriffs would be waiting to take him to prison for the next seven years of his life.
Seven years. That was all his mother had been worth.
Blaine hadn't expected to feel so raw when this was all over. He'd wanted closure. He'd wanted this to put an end to the grief and the pain. Gently, Kurt slipped his hand out of Blaine's and put his arm around the boy's shoulder. Together with Blaine's dads, they stood, and headed out of the courtroom.
When the fresh air finally hit Blaine's face, he glanced at Kurt. "Hey dads, do you mind if I catch a ride with Kurt?" he asked.
Blaine hadn't meant to do it. But once the words slipped out, it was impossible to take back. Hiram and LeRoy turned wide eyes on their son who, all of them knew, had never actually called them dads before. LeRoy, at least, was able to keep it together. "Of course, Blaine. Kurt – drive carefully," he admonished.
"Always," Kurt answered easily, either unaware of what had just happened or intentionally ignoring it. Either way, Blaine appreciated no one making a big deal out of the slip of his tongue.
He followed Kurt to his SUV, and when the car locks clicked, he pulled the handle of the passenger side door.
"Yes, Blaine?" Kurt answered as he turned on the ignition. From the stereo, a quiet version of Bing Crosby's "I'll be Home for Christmas" began playing.
"Listen, before we head back, there's someplace I really wanted to show you."
"Oh, um, OK. Where?"
"Uh," Blaine looked over at the two exits. "Go that way," he said, then take a left.
When they finally arrived at their destination, Blaine said, "Pull in there," directing him to a parking spot.
As Blaine took in the swings, the seesaw, the yellow slide, his face relaxed into a happy smile.
"So - where are we, exactly?" Kurt asked, seeing the same swings and seesaw and slide, but not seeing what Blaine did.
"When I was a kid, my mom used to bring me to this park. It was," he chuckled, "my favorite place in the entire world. I could play here for - hours." He grinned, and as the memories played in his mind, the smile began to fade.
"I wanted to bring you here because the only other person in the world that knows about this spot is Bethany. And, I really wanted you to know it, too." Blaine knew he wasn't making very much sense, but he pressed on anyway, even as "Jingle Bell Rock" played softly in the background.
He looked over at Kurt. "Kurt, I want you to know that this – you being here? It really means the world to me. Over the past month, even though we've been going to different schools, you've been there for me like – no guy ever has been. You're a true friend, Kurt. My…best friend."
He watched as something in Kurt's jaw tightened. "Well," he said airily. "Always happy to be there, you know, as a friend."
It wasn't what Blaine had been trying to say. He'd gotten to know Kurt over the past few months, and the person Kurt was - his talent, his drive, but most of all, his kindness - it moved Blaine in ways he'd never known before. But right then, he didn't know how to say that. Not quite yet.
The upbeat song on the radio ended, and the introduction to "Baby, It's Cold Outside" began. Kurt moved to change the radio station, but Blaine grabbed his hand to stop him.
"No. Don't. I love this song." Then suddenly Blaine began to sing, right in time with the radio, "But Baby it's cold outside." The radio version sang the next line, which Blaine joined with another "But Baby it's cold outside."
With his elbow he nudged Kurt who, despite the blush rising in his cheeks rolled his eyes and joined him, "This evening has been….so very nice…"
"I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice!" And just as the lyric promised, he put his own hand over Kurt's as they continued to sing. He might not have had the right words to describe his feelings, but one day soon, he definitely would.
My mother will start to worry (beautiful what's your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I'd better scurry (beautiful please don't hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (baby, it's bad out there)
Say what's in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (i'll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)
At least I'm gonna say that I tried (what's the sense in hurtin' my pride?)
I really can't stay (oh baby don't hold out)
But baby, it's cold outside….
A/N: Wow, everyone. Nearly 5 whole years (with a big hiatus in the middle), 49 chapters and over 75,000 words and this journey is finally at an end. A big thank you to everyone who had ridden this roller coaster with me. You guys are the greatest!